The golden era of explosive growth across the general economy is over. Structural problems within the economy and demographic trends are weights far too heavy to allow our economic kite to soar as we came to think of as normal in the 90’s and 00’s. Tepid growth as we have experienced since the Great Recession is the ‘new normal’; not because it’s a catchy cliché, but because it is the truth.
During and after the 2nd World War, America was a great industrial power. Manufacturing was the name of the game and the U.S. of A was a dominate player. This began to shift in the latter part of the 60’s and accelerated throughout the 70’s to the 90’s. In industrial workforce and total output began to falter. Concurrently, the already substantial service sector increased its pace of growth. Somewhere between the 70’s to the 90’s, the general consensus becomes that the U.S. is a primarily service based economy.
Whether we are talking about a society shifting from an agricultural base to an industrial base or from an industrial base to a service base, the ability of the population to adapt to the new economic reality is key to understanding the potential economic lag that will occur. If the majority of the population already has the skills or can quickly learn the skills needed to maneuver and succeed in the new economic reality, then the economic lag is short. The greater the learning curve, the greater the economic lag.
Right now we are in another economic transition. One could call this the tech revolution or some other comparable name. The challenge is not that opportunity is nonexistent. Opportunity does exist in many places. The challenge pertains to the learning curve that is needed to reach the level in which the population can grab a hold of the opportunities presented. The plethora of technology jobs require a much higher level of knowledge and skill than what we were accustom to in an agricultural, manufacturing or standard service position.
The job growth we are experiencing is in areas of the economy where many have no leverage and no point of entry. This is extremely discouraging for the individual and society as a whole. Time is wasted, skill is unleveraged, dreams go stale and society’s safety net must continually leaned upon to help sustain a minimum level of living.
To avoid the dilemma described above, educators, administrators and students must change their state of mind. This change is occurring. Sometimes it is slow and other times it is faster. It will take years, as in decades for this change to fully take hold. A solution exists, yet it’s not quick or painless.
Part II to follow tomorrow…stay tuned.